[HIT Forum] Korea's only astronaut highlights humanity's connection with universe

Korea’s only astronaut, Yi Soyeon, delivered a keynote speech Wednesday at The Korea Herald's Humanity In Tech or HIT Forum, discussing her space journey and how it has broadened her perspective on humanity.

“Since I went to space in April 2008, Korea has witnessed great advancements and unprecedented interest in the space sector, making it timely for me to share my experience,” said Yi before some 400 attendees of the HIT Forum at The Shilla Seoul.

This year, Yi also published her book, “Meet Me at the Universe,” in which she recalls her life before, during and after she became an astronaut, to mark the 15th anniversary of her space flight.

Prior to being selected as the final prime candidate for the Korean Astronaut Program in 2006, Yi had faced heated competition against some 36,000 applicants.

Beginning in 2007 March, Yi went through an arduous training course that lasted over a year at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center near Moscow.

“Up in space, mental stress greatly outweighs physical strain. As a woman who had no prior military experience, the training period (with) the Russian Air Force took a great mental toll on me,” Yi recalled, underscoring the importance of mental resilience.

Yi said that her time in space allowed her to realize how fragile humanity is, and that it gave her the opportunity to think about the meaning and value of human existence in the vast universe.

“Looking at our planet from above, you become overwhelmed by how small a creature we all are, how small your country and this planet are. The experience is so humbling,” said Yi.

During her speech, Yi presented a photo of the Korean Peninsula as taken from space. The photo captured the stark contrast between the darkness of North Korea at night and the brightly illuminated South.

Having witnessed this unique sight, which so clearly highlighted the jarring difference between the two Koreas, Yi said she felt more awake to the suffering of people all over the world.

Yi also pointed out that many astronauts become more interested in global issues after going to space, with many becoming active in international campaigns upon their return to Earth.

“For many astronauts, the current escalating tensions in Gaza between Hamas and Israel hits us hard. Many of us also felt a sense of responsibility when war broke out between Ukraine and Russia.”

Following her keynote speech, Yi sat down with Sasha Sagan, acclaimed author and daughter of Carl Sagan for a panel discussion, to further delve into the philosophical insights she gained from her journey to space, as well as into humanity's responsibilities when exploring space.

Korea’s only astronaut, Yi Soyeon, delivered a keynote speech Wednesday at The Korea Herald's Humanity in Tech Forum, discussing her space journey and how it has broadened her perspectives on humanity.

“Since I went to space in April 2008, Korea has witnessed great advancements and unprecedented interest in the space sector, making it timely for me to share my experience,” said Yi before some 400 attendees of the HIT Forum at The Shilla Seoul.

This year, Yi also published her book, “Meet Me at the Universe,” in which she recalls her life before, during and after she became an astronaut, to mark the 15th anniversary of her space flight.

Prior to being selected as the final prime candidate for the Korean Astronaut Program in 2006, Yi had faced heated competition against some 36,000 applicants.

Beginning in 2007 March, Yi went through an arduous training course that lasted over a year at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center near Moscow.

“Up in space, mental stress greatly outweighs physical strain. As a woman who had no prior military experience, the training period (with) the Russian Air Force took a great mental toll on me,” Yi recalled, underscoring the importance of mental resilience in space.

Yi said that her time in space allowed her to realize how fragile humanity is, and that it gave her the opportunity to think about the meaning and value of human existence in the vast universe.

“Looking at our planet from above, you become overwhelmed by how small a creature we all are, how small your country and this planet are. The experience is so humbling,” said Yi.

During her speech, Yi presented a photo of the Korean Peninsula as taken from space. The photo captured the stark contrast between the darkness of North Korea at night and the brightly illuminated South.

Having witnessed this unique sight, which so clearly highlighted the jarring difference between the two Koreas, Yi said she felt more awake to the suffering of people all over the world.

Yi also pointed out that many astronauts, in fact, become more interested in global issues after going to space, with many becoming active in international campaigns upon their return to Earth.

“For many astronauts, the current escalating tensions in Gaza between Hamas and Israel hits us hard. Many of us also felt a sense of responsibility when war broke out between Ukraine and Russia.”

Following her keynote speech, Yi sat down with Sasha Sagan, acclaimed author and daughter of Carl Sagan for a panel discussion, to further delve into the philosophical insights she gained from her journey to space, as well as into humanity's responsibilities when exploring space.

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